President Bill Clinton took the stage at the Cannes ad festival today, grounding the raucous week of parties, meetings and Mediterranean sun with a hopeful directive to the creative community: Use your power to communicate to help solve some of the world's biggest problems.
"A lot of the facts that will form the trend lines of the future are not apparent to people. … The communicators will have a profound influence on how the next 20-30 years will turn out," Mr. Clinton said. "What people need is honest, synthesized communication. You can do that."
Citing objectives of his Clinton Global Initiative, he lingered on the topic of climate change and the "enormous disinformation" about the effects of current energy usage on the environment and the effect it will have on the future. Brazilian marketing-services company Grupo ABC sponsored President Clinton's talk; Grupo ABC's Chairman Nizan Guanaes has been involved with the Global Initiative in his home country.
Turning to the European debt crisis, President Clinton urged the packed grand auditorium of the Palais to consider Greece's sagging reputation.
"We need to figure out the image and the self-image of the Greeks," he said. "How can they break out of the shackles of their financial record and the perception that they can't cut it? They can."
President Clinton also highlighted the power of collaboration and diversity to solve the biggest problems. He cited group fundraising efforts following the Haitian earthquake, where text-message donors contributed $26 on average, and in starting up non-government organizations in the U.K. He also took the opportunity to fault U.S. Republicans for making the denial of climate change a campaigning tactic, especially in contrast to countries such as Brazil that have taken a collaborative approach to increase clean energy usage.
He also took the opportunity to call out his favorite ad campaign: DirecTV's "Get Rid of Cable" spots, especially the one with the daughter who marries a guy with too many tattoos. "The funniest ad I've ever seen," he said.
Mr. Clinton is hoping the ad community can apply some of that brilliance to inspire people to adopt clean energy and promote tolerance and collaboration.
"I can't think of any better group of people to think about how do that. … and if you make people laugh like the DTV ad, that's OK, too."